National

Diet approves simultaneous streaming for Japan's public broadcaster NHK

Kyodo

The Diet on Wednesday authorized public broadcaster NHK to start simultaneous online streaming of its television programs amid the increasing popularity of computer- and handset-based services.

NHK, formally called Japan Broadcasting Corp., plans to launch the new service by next March in order to broadcast the Tokyo Olympics torch relay, which is scheduled to start that month.

To date, NHK has streamed disaster reports and some live sports coverage but the revised broadcasting law approved by the House of Councilors will help expand streaming video services via devices including smartphones.

People who possess a TV set are required to pay for an NHK subscription, but the revised law does not require any additional fee.

The law obliges the Tokyo-based broadcaster to disclose the costs of online distribution, amid criticism that its business expansion could have a negative impact on private broadcasters.

The communications minister will give NHK a warning if the broadcaster does not follow the requirements, according to the revised law.

The law also strengthens NHK’s corporate governance by stipulating measures that give the audit committee the authority to investigate executives. This comes after a series of scandals that hit the broadcaster, including two separate cases involving the embezzlement of subscription fees by employees.

During discussions on the bill, NHK was urged to improve its management operations. The broadcaster has already decided to cut the subscription fee starting in October 2020.

“In the era of converging broadcasting and communication services, we will work to play the role of a trusted core component of social infrastructure that viewers can rely on,” NHK said.

The bill cleared the House of Representatives on May 16.

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